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Playoffs!. . .Playoffs???

Dec 8, 2004, 4:19 AM EST

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You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com

You come here to get the skinny on what needs to happen for the Redskins to make the playoffs. You get it.

I was ready to write a long complicated article here, but it’s really, really simple. Even though there are literally thousands of possible combinations of how the 11 teams with from six to eight losses could finish up, it boils down to this:

If the Redskins win out to finish at 8-8, they will be in the playoffs for certain unless one of three things happens:

Two other non-division winners finish with nine or more wins. Obviously, this would bump the Redskins out on the basis of record.

OR

The Packers or a Ram team that lost to the Jets are one of the teams that finish 8-8. That would not necessarily eliminate the Redskins, but if they should emerge from the tiebreakers in the NFC North (I’ll explain this little-noted NFL tiebreaker feature in a moment), the Pack would beat the Redskins out on the basis of their Halloween day win in FedEx and the Rams could get in ahead of Washington on the basis of other tiebreakers.

If you’ve made it this far through this blog, you are probably familiar with the NFL tiebreaking procedures, which you can find here: http://www.nfl.com/standings/tiebreakers Here are the procedures for a Wild Card tie among three or more teams. Pay particular attention to the first one on the list:

Three or More Clubs (for Wild Card)

1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2.

2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)

3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.

4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.

5. Strength of victory.

6. Strength of schedule.

7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.

8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.

9. Best net points in conference games.

10. Best net points in all games.

11. Best net touchdowns in all games.

12. Coin toss

So, only one team will “represent” each division in the Wild Card tiebreaker. If the Redskins win out, they will be the NFC East team in the mix if the Cowboys and/or Giants also finish at 8-8. Head to head wouldn’t matter as the Redskins would have split with both. The Redskins would be 3-3 in the division and that is the best either Dallas or New York could be.

It would then come down to conference record. And here’s the thing that makes it so simple for the Redskins. If they win out, they will be 8-4 in the conference. Except for Philadelphia, and they’re not in the discussion here, no other NFC team except the Rams that finishes 8-8 can finish with any better than a 7-5 NFC record.

That would give the Redskins the tiebreaker within the division. They would then advance on to matching up against any representatives from the other three divisions. From the West, that could be the Rams, Seahawks, or Cardinals. The Redskins will not have played any of those teams so it will come down to conference record. Seattle’s and Arizona’s would be worse that theirs, so the Skins would prevail there. St. Louis could also finish at 8-4 in the NFC, so it would go down the list. There aren’t four common games, so it would come down to strength of victory and it’s way too early to judge that (although a Redskin win over Philly would certainly boost that).

Atlanta needs just one more win to clinch the South, but if they collapse to 8-8 the Redskins would beat them out. Washington beat Tampa Bay head to head and 8-8 New Orleans and Carolina teams would be 7-5 in the conference at best.

And, in the North, an 8-8 Redskins team would have beaten Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota and would have lost to Green Bay. Now the Packers are 7-5 and it would take a 1-3 finish for them to finish at 8-8, so it’s best just to pull for them to win a couple more. If they do end up in that mix, it would depend on who they beat to determine if they emerge from the North for that win over Washington to do them any good.

So who do you root for this Sunday before settling in at 8:30 to watch the Redskins? Pull for:

  • Jacksonville to beat Chicago
  • New Orleans to beat Dallas
  • Green Bay to beat Detroit
  • St. Louis to beat Carolina (this one is borderline, but Carolina needs to be cooled off lest they keep rolling and end up with 9 wins)
  • Baltimore to beat the Giants
  • San Diego to beat Tampa Bay

Seattle at Minnesota is a tough one. They’re both tied for their respective division leads with the teams that the Redskins don’t want in the tiebreaker mix, the Rams and Packers. Since you want one both of them in the 8-8 Wild Card mix, I’d say got for Seattle since they have the worse record at 6-6. But the Redskins fans really can’t win or lose in this one.

Should the Redskins still be alive after this Sunday I’ll produce another “root for” list next week.

I’m doing this mostly for fun. It will take 7 teams to lose a combined 8 out of 28 games for the Redskins to make the playoffs (that’s Dallas, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Carolina, and Tampa Bay losing one each and Seattle finishing out 2-2). And, oh by the way, the Redskins going 4-0.

I’m not betting the ranch on the chances of making the playoffs—I wouldn’t even bet the dog house at this point. But if they can beat the Eagles and a good number of the “root fors” come through on Sunday, it gets into the “stranger things have happened” category.

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